Danie Ware’s debut novel Ecko Rising is the tale of the cybernetically enhanced assassin Ecko, who joins a resistance group fighting against a world where people are medicated into servitude. While on reconnaissance to track down the pharmacist responsible for the drug, Dr Grey, Ecko barely survives the mission and finds himself in a virtual world. Whether created by his own unstable mind, the resistance group’s psychiatrist Eliza, or his adversary Dr Grey, Ecko has to play the game, save the world and at the same time, save himself.
Danie writes a rich world filled with large archetypal characters such a the healer, the prophet, the warrior, the thief and of course the evil alchemist. All the while making each one worth caring about – apart from the bad guy, you really want the anti-hero Ecko to kick his ass. Both worlds are blissfully unaware of the threat is it under, suffering the same sort of apathy as Ecko’s London; where chemists/alchemists plot to rule the world, with only a small group of people fighting against the evil. There’s quite a lot of violence and a smattering of sex, and yet it never feel gratuitous. It always fits the plot rather than having it for the sake of it. Danie writes in such a way as you can clearly visualise the worlds she is describing. You can feel the the rake of a monster’s claw; the knife or sword blade; the heat of sex and fire; and the pain of loss, either life or limb. There are also quite a few unexpected twists; scenes that are brilliantly set up, only to meet swift and cruel ends.
Ecko himself, to say he’s the most interesting character in the book does him little justice. He’s cynical, a cruel wit, rebellious, selfish and uncaring. The first half of Ecko Rising I found myself not liking him, yet funny; a pain and yet siding with him. As the book, and the program he’s stuck in plays itself out, Ecko begins to see that he can care for those around him, even the fantasy characters of Varchinde. I found him more and more likeable, even as he keeps up bad behaviour to those around him. An anti-hero, Ecko slowly becomes a champion.
What I founds truly brilliant was that the reader plays the role of Ecko, just as the author plays the role of the psychiatrist Eliza. Danie fucks with the reader’s head, never knowing if the world is based in Ecko’s mind or an actual alternate world. The book never plays from Ecko’s point of view alone. We’re introduced to people who may never meet Ecko, yet play large roles within the story. It weaves a number of threads together, only to pick them apart again as Ecko crosses paths with these people. So has Ecko been plugged into virtual world, or has he somehow really ended up a magical fantasy world? Right up to the end, it’s an answer that shifts from one to the other and back again.
An ambitious tale and brilliantly written, Ecko Rising ends by setting up the sequel; one that I am most definitely looking forward to.
Danie Ware is the publicist and event organiser for cult entertainment retailer Forbidden Planet. She has been immersed in the science-fiction and fantasy community for the past decade. An early adopter of blogging, social media and a familiar face at conventions, she appears on panels as an expert on genre marketing and retailing.
Danie Ware will be reading from and signing, Ecko Rising (Titan Books) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Thursday 20th September from 6 – 7pm.
Ecko Rising by Danie Ware, available from 21st September, Titan Books, £7.99. You can pre-order your copy from Forbidden Planet.